June 9, 2010
~No show photos yet. Car trouble kept the photog from the show. Got some shots you want to show off? Email us.
By Jim Gangi
It was a cold and rainy Wednesday evening in New Haven, but the people gathered inside Cafe Nine were all kept warm by the inviting sounds of acoustic music. These comforting sounds were created by the collaborative efforts of Greg Attonito, Kevin Seconds, Shanti Wintergate, and Kepi Ghoulie. This collection of musicians rolled into town as part of the Vroom Vroom Vespa Tour. It’s not just a clever title, Greg Attonito and his wife Shanti Wintergate are actually traveling from show to show via Vespa scooter. This laidback style of travel perfectly reflected the relaxed mood of the entire show.
From the four names listed on the event poster, it seemed as though the show would progress in the logical order of opener one, opener two, headliner one, and headliner two. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this was not the case. I knew immediately that it was going to be a good night when the first words I heard out of Kepi was that they were all full of pizza and birch beer, which are arguably the two best things about New Haven. The event hardly felt like a performance. Instead, it felt more like a group of old friends hanging out and playing some songs together. Because of this, it seemed as though there was no barrier between the artists and the audience. The show carried on like a casual jam among friends, and instruments were passed around like a game of musical chairs. As Greg took the stage wearing a sophisticated-looking blue scarf, his fellow musicians joked that it was an appropriate choice because they were in Connecticut, the assumed stereotypical land of refinement and high class. This playful jab at our beloved home state demonstrated the lighthearted tone of the evening and the camaraderie between the musicians.
You wouldn’t really know it from Wednesday’s set, but all of the artists on the Vespa Tour are well established punk musicians. Greg Attonito is the lead singer of The Bouncing Souls, Kevin Seconds is the founding member of 7 Seconds, and Kepi Ghoulie plays with the Groovie Ghoulies. Yet, there was nothing hard, fast, or aggressive about Wednesday’s show. The only clues to their punk roots may have been the stickers on the acoustic guitars and the glittery pink bass guitar that was passed around all night. Aside from that, the night was entirely pure and honest acoustic music.
Like a big family band, each artist took turns at the microphone and there was no clear ringleader. When Greg and Shanti were on stage together, the star of the show was their sturdy, yet subtle vocal harmonies. Shanti’s voice could be innocent and delicate on one song, and strong and soulful on the next. The couple’s voices flawlessly complement each other, making it no surprise to find out that Greg and Shanti are married. The audience seemed to perk up and sing along during an intimate version of The Bouncing Soul’s “Lean On Sheena,” and the set was also sprinkled with tasteful covers, including Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.”
At one point, Kevin Seconds took over for a brief solo set. However, it was as if Kevin could sense the emptiness on stage, and after just one song by himself, he humbly called Ben Lewis and Vic Ruggerio back on stage. Although neither musician appeared on the bill, Ben and Vic’s musical abilities took some of the spotlight away from the headliners. Ben Lewis is an amazing trumpet player, pure and simple. Each song was enhanced by appropriately spontaneous jazz trumpet solos. You might think that trumpet would overpower the acoustic instruments, but Ben played with a delicate touch that worked perfectly in each song. Throughout the night, Vic could be seen playing bass, guitar, harmonica, or accordion. He also provided a good amount of comic relief with his quick and witty sense of humor, as he joked through a muffled harmonica microphone.
Kevin’s songs created a different mood in the room with his bluesy and melancholic lyrics. It is obvious that Johnny Cash is one of Kevin’s major influences. He is the kind of songwriter that has so much material packed inside his mind that he sometimes loses control of the song. I would imagine the inside of his brain looks like an overflowing filing cabinet. For example, he started playing one song, but halfway through the first verse, he stopped the song and decided to play another. No one in the room seemed to mind, and the decision showed how comfortable and confident Kevin is on stage. Other uptight artists would never stop in the middle of a song.
Personally, the most captivating artist of the night was Kepi Ghoulie. Although billed as the opener, Kepi’s natural stage presence outshined his peers. He spoke and sang like a man who was born with a microphone in front of his face. Songs like “Hair Of Gold (And Skin of Blue)” seem to be written with a good sense of humor mixed with honesty. “Hair of gold and skin of blue / Do you think she loves me? / Do you think she cares? / Will her folks look down on me? / My skin is not like theirs.” Whenever Kepi was on stage he seemed to just grab people’s attention.
Overall, the artists featured on the Vroom Vroom Vespa tour melded together in a special way. Instead of seeing four solo artists, the audience at Cafe Nine saw one great band play all night. For more information about the tour and a daily video blog from the road, check out www.vroomvroomvespatour.com.